Farmers and landowners looking to invest in solar PV technology could benefit from a new loan scheme, offering a route towards full ownership of solar installations as opposed to traditional rooftop lease schemes.
The SolarLoan, which was launched last week by UK renewable energy company Engensa, offers an alternative to traditional “free solar” schemes where farmers lease out roof space and forfeit their Feed-in Tariff (FIT) payments in return.
The new scheme allows farmers to borrow up to £1m over a maximum 10-year period – although this is flexible and three-, five- and seven-year term loans are available – for a solar PV installation designed and installed by the company.
Typical APR on the loan starts from 6.4% but varies dependant on the applicant’s turnover and financial history, and the credit checking process is very similar to that used for leasing farm machinery.
Speaking to Farmers Weekly, Engensa chief executive officer Toby Darbyshire said the scheme had been launched to put farmers in control of renewable energy investments on their properties.
“The traditional ‘free solar’ model would mean a company would raise investment money and then take a lease on a barn roof and install the solar system – which it would then continue to own, paid for through FiTs – and in return the farmer would get all the energy generated,” he said.
“But the SolarLoan is fundamentally different; rather than having an investment fund own the asset on the building, we are actually going to lend the farmer money to own it. And what this means is that, for the farmer, it’s a significantly more beneficial arrangement.
“The farmer gets the solar PV system, the FiTs payment and the energy savings.
“And he is likely to cover his costs from day one through that, and then from years 11-20, all the renewable energy income goes straight to him.”
“The farmer gets the solar PV system, the FiTs payment and the energy savings.”
Toby Darbyshire, Engensa
The renewable energy company, in conjunction with Hitatchi Capital, will lend from £50,000 to £1m, based on the farmer or landowner providing a minimum 10% deposit.
“The landowner then gets the chance to work with Engensa to find a system which suits their needs; they have complete control about the type of system and its size,” added Mr Darbyshire.
The company aims to focus the scheme on areas south of Birmingham this year and then roll the scheme out across the rest of the UK next year. However, Mr Darbyshire said it welcomed applications from farmers and landowners anywhere in the UK..
Bidwells rural surveyor Carol Ripley said the scheme could be an incentive for more farmers to install solar PV technology on their farms, as traditionally banks have been more cautious to lend for such schemes, requiring land as security.
“This might encourage some farmers to look into solar – most of them tend to go down the conservative route of letting the land out, but the best returns are where you have the facility to do it yourself,” she said.
“It’s nice for the farmers to get the returns rather than the developers. And so long as the terms of the loan are reasonable, this should be something farmers should look at.”
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